Saturday, May 31, 2008


Well, I have a new job. I edit obituaries for the local newspaper. For the most part, my job consists of reading about old men and women who have lived long, meaning-filled lives. But every once in a while, I have a day like today. First, a funeral home director sends me the obituary of a two month old infant. The grieving parents have written up some beautiful nonsense about how this baby made everyone want to live a better life. Then, a woman calls me to ask how to submit an obituary for her son.
"I'm sorry," I say, about to cry since I'm still upset over the baby.
"I've already buried two daughters," she says, "And this is so wrong."
"I know," I say, and again, "I'm sorry."
These are the ones that affect me the most, perhaps because they hit so close to home. The thought of losing one of my babies, or my husband (who is probably about the same age as the second woman's son)
almost immobilizes me.
I will be honest, death scares me. It scares me badly. The thought that I could possibly be happy again if I lost one of my boys just seems ludicrous to me.
I recently read The Voyage Out by Virginia Wolfe, and she describes a poignant death scene. The fiance sits and listens to Rachel's breathing slow and finally stop. He sits quietly with her for some time, and then, when his friends come and get him, he finally realizes what death means--he will never see Rachel again. All of a sudden, he understands. That's how it's been for me lately. Death is final. And even though eternity scared me (maybe I'll go into that later), finality scares me even more.


G said...

this would be a very hard job for me...
things like this have a tendency to put me over the edge. hang in there.

you are doing a valuable service for these people.

Anonymous said...

When I worked at the county election office, that was one job that I wouldn't do----read the daily obits looking for people that needed to have their voter registration canceled due to their deaths. Just couldn't handle it.

TAG said...

I don't envy your job. I had to write an obit for my brother - left out in the count one of his nephews - and then for my sister, I did list my parents initially, but I forgot to list them as the survivors.  And I pride myself on my editing abilities. Sigh. The only relief is that my mom read it, the funeral director read it (and my folks were planning and paying for the funeral), and so someone else should have caught it, too, right?

I respect a well-written obituary.

Lessie said...

Hey TAG, it's good to see you here. I enjoy your comments elsewhere on the bloggernacle. If it makes you feel any better, some newspapers edit those things out if their names are already listed once. It's a space issue. I don't actually write them, I edit them. Depending on the option the families choose, I either leave them alone except for spelling and grammar or I edit them down to our format.

Anonymous, I appreciate your trepidation. I think I'm starting to desensitize a bit. I mean, I still hurt for these families, I've just learned to not look at it from such a personal point of view. I just try not to think about losing my own loved ones. That helps it not hurt so much. I can empathize, but not hurt so badly myself. I hope that makes sense.

Hey G (and everyone else). Thanks for your thoughts.